Go to any first grade classroom in America, and you’ll see pretty much the same things. Some basic math, reading skills being honed, hopefully a few macaroni necklaces. But one thing you probably won’t see: Students learning to write code. That’s about to change for public school children in Estonia, as the country plans to add computer coding to its curriculum, starting in the first grade and extending all the way up through high school.
The program’s called ProgeTiiger, and Estonia hopes it will help make their country even more of a power player in the already blossoming Eastern European coding revolution. Private companies in Estonia were involved from the beginning and are eagerly awaiting to swoop up the best young programmers.
Meanwhile, in the US, first graders are…well, lets just say we’re not teaching kids to code. A recent poll ranked South Korea as number 1 in digital literacy, a poll that the US wasn’t even a part of. In fact, the US hasn’t taken part in a digital literacy assessment since 1992—which raises the question—What was digital in 1992? And also, more seriously, why are we voluntarily allowing ourselves to fall behind?
Many are arguing that the US should jump on the coding bandwagon and teach kids to code. CNN reporter Douglas Rushkoff has been pretty vocal on the issue saying, “It’s time Americans begin treating computer code the way we do the alphabet or arithmetic.” Rushkoff also makes the apocalyptic claim that Americans need to “code or be coded.” And other than his latent fear that America will soon resemble The Matrix, he makes some pretty valid points.
Rushkoff goes on to argue that American school children shouldn’t just learn to code because other countries are having their kids do it or because coding is cool (debatable), but because so much of the world today is digital. It makes sense to understand the world around you, to know a little bit more about the machine that you will eventually spend your entire career sitting in front of (a computer).
To help get Americans going, there is a fantastically awesome website called Codeacademy that will help you learn java basics. And all Codeacademy courses are free! So start coding! Because there’s a first grader in Estonia right now (and a bunch of other countries) who is already way ahead of you.